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What Turns Your Pages?



I’ve mentioned I’m an avid reader which has spilled over to writing, so you know I’m a kindred soul and you can tell me…what turns those pages for you?

I’ve noticed that we’re drawn to books that we can relate to in some form–possibly they pull us in because in some way we can sympathize with the characters or their plight. Maybe we don’t relate to them because we’re similar, but because we admire them. We see something in them or in the story that we’re trying to find in ourselves.

Sometimes we like a book because it fixes something we view as missing or broken in our lives–in our past, present, or future. I read romances long before I fell in love because it was missing from my life. Now, I read partly to recapture that feeling that sometimes gets lost in the desperate days of schlepping kids and paying the mortgage and doing endless laundry.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a sucker for certain tropes in books…including amnesia plots. If you read some of my OCD posts, you know that I lost a few months of my life to amnesia. I don’t actually remember the months surrounding my twenty-first birthday. Honestly…and somewhat ironically…I can’t remember if I liked amnesia tropes before I suffered from amnesia myself. I do know that when a character never recovers their memory–I’m left somewhat dissatisfied. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m back in that first year after it happened when I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile a future when I was missing my past. Or if it feels too much like my reality. Or if I just want to hug the character out of sympathy rather than empathy.

As I mentioned in another post, Escape, Enrich, or Entertain, reading is often an escape for me–and the adventure is what is missing from my life. I know what I’ll be doing today. I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. A couple years ago, my kids came home from school to find that we’d packed their bags and we were heading to Disneyland for B’s eleventh birthday. Opening a book, for me, is to a smaller degree like arriving home and finding out I’m going to Disneyland. I turn pages because I don’t know what the next page brings.

I know what makes me stop turning pages. Once upon a time, I bought an anthology of “romances.” It actually had “romance” in the subtitle. When I opened it up, the first two stories had no romance. The characters barely spoke before they were heavy breathing and climbing all over each other. In one case, the secondary character wasn’t even awake when the heavy breathing began. I’ve never wanted to throw a book so much. I returned it.  I wanted more than just an inventive scenario for two people to commence the physical side of a relationship…I wanted a relationship.

As I’ve read reviews and found my own favorite books, I think what we like and what makes us turn pages says more about us as a reader than it ever will about the book. There are books that meet more universal needs and the writing will draw in more readers and convey more emotions but, ultimately, not every book will be for everyone. We will all have our own favorites, our own likes and dislikes. After all, I’ve known someone who didn’t like Princess Bride…

So, think of your favorite books. What is it about your favorite book that speaks to you?

One of my favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird…and beyond the brilliant writing, that book appeals to me because I have a very strong sense of right and wrong and justice. I’ve seen enough bad things happen to good people to last a lifetime. I just want to see right prevail every now and again. I think that’s also why I like romances. If you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, you know that while justice and right versus wrong are a theme–justice goes awry. But the main characters fight for justice–and I empathize with that. There are things worth fighting for, even if the world disagrees and beats you down. Right is still right.

Okay, so…spill…favorite book and why do you think it appeals to you? What keeps you turning the pages?

What? The picture I chose? Ohhhh, I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way his handwriting is that legible. Duh, his girlfriend wrote it. It’s a Honey-do list. And, yes, I’m sure he does have the library pre-programmed into his phone.

10 Responses so far.

  1. mishqueen says:

    I love books that trick me! I nice twist of plot that I SHOULD have seen all along is as delicious as candy to me. A close second is that perfect balance of foreshadowing. Enough to make the reader feel brilliant for figuring it out, but not so much that we get that flat “duh” feeling at the end.
    Good times, and great anticipation for the end.

    • You’re impossible to trick, though! I still can’t believe you guessed The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Which books do trick you? I seem to remember you figured out Ender’s Game in advance too.

  2. mishqueen says:

    …typos everywhere…sheesh

    • I had a few typos in this post before it went up that would have made you weep. There may still be typos. At some point you have to let it go. Let it goooo. Let it goooooo. (Though, actually, I’ll still correct typos I find months later because I can’t REALLY let it go.)

  3. writerggandrew says:

    Best. Picture. Ever! I have a few subjects that are catnip/kryptonite for me, though, unlike your being drawn to amnesia plots, I can’t always figure out why. I really like high school reunion plots, for instance, even though I’ve never been to one, and also stories involving British characters, though I’ve never been to England. (But maybe that’s why on both those counts.) I also like romances involving heroines who write romance, but that one’s easier to figure out. 🙂

    • I know, right? When I found that picture JUST AS IT IS I knew I had to use it. *blinks innocently*

      I love British characters too.

      (Also, I’ve never been to a high school reunion either–mine or with my spouse. We’re rebels.)

  4. My (official) favorite book is LITTLE WOMEN. I’ve read it 17 times. I think it’s my favorite because the March family was so real to me. I am an only child and at the time I first read it, lived on a farm in rural Washington state, I.e., my friends all existed in my head. I longed for sisters and a family that was progressive enough to nurture individuality.

    Next comes THE LORD OF THE RINGS because it’s fantasy and adventure, and I love that the universe building for the story all began with languages. Tolkien spent his lifetime creating the history that Middle Earth was based on and, amazingly, his writing hit the best seller lists 40 years after his death (thanks to his son, Christopher) with THE CHILDREN OF HURIN.

    Then there’s the HARRY POTTER SERIES. On the surface they are stories about good-vs-evil and the triumphant power of love, but they are really much deeper than that and speak to our very human need for stories of Everyman becoming a Hero and giving us hope. J.K. Rowling borrowed much from the folklore and legends of the world, but she fashioned the tales using a very old style of storytelling; while many of the (very Christian) symbols and references are lost on today’s audiences, that helps to explain the worldwide popularity of her books. Don’t believe me? Read THE DEATHLY HALLOWS LECTURES by John Granger. Great stuff.

    Now, what was the question at the end of your post? Oh, YES, what keeps me turning the pages. A well thought-out and thought-provoking story, often with fantasy elements that are integral to the plot, not just thrown in for added color. (Why did it take me three paragraphs to say that?) 😉

    • I’m going to have to check out The Deathly Hallows Lectures. I love that sort of stuff.

      I liked Little Women right up until it turned sad. I’ve always struggled with sad books drop-kicking my mood for days because I get so emotionally invested in them. It broke my heart for a few days.

  5. finkjess says:

    In library school, they talk about the main things people read for: character, plot, writing, setting, genre, pacing, mood, timeframe (which I think it part of setting but whatever), and relationship. Different people are drawn by different aspects of these things in different amounts. Funnily enough, I unintentionally wrote these in the order I find most appealing. I’m a character girl. Make me like your characters and I will follow you anywhere. Give me likable characters, language that makes me swoon (or laugh), and a plot I can’t predict and I’m a fan for life.

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